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United Airlines tested a new boarding process at LAX; now it's being used worldwide

United Airlines tested a new boarding process at LAX; now it's being used worldwide
United Airlines has adopted a new boarding process that reduces the number of lanes at the gate from five to two. (M. Spencer Green / Associated Press)

After a 30-day testing period at Los Angeles International Airport, United Airlines has expanded a new boarding procedure that is designed to reduce passenger confusion.

"The boarding process was one of the top areas customers told us they wanted improved," said Sarah Murphy, United vice president of global operations strategy, planning and design. The new procedure will be used at all airports where United operates.

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Efficient boarding is an area of financial concern for airlines. The faster an airline can load and unload passengers, the more revenue a carrier can squeeze out of each plane.

The boarding process used by the Chicago-based carrier in the past instructed fliers to queue up in five different lanes before the passengers were called to board.

The new procedure — United calls it “Better Boarding” — still assigns travelers to five groups but the airline now creates only two lanes in the boarding area, instead of five.

Group 1 will board through the first lane and Group 2 will board through the second lane. Once those passengers are on the plane, groups 3 through 5 will be called in order to board through the second lane, leaving the first lane open for any latecomers from the first two groups, United said.

United says the new procedure reduces congestion around the boarding area by asking most fliers to remain seated while others are boarding or getting off the plane.

The procedure is good news for elite members of United’s loyalty reward program because Premier 1k members who previously boarded with Group 1 are now included in the “pre-board” group. Premier Gold members move up from Group 2 to Group 1 under the new boarding plan.

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